Week 9 CUSA - UTEP-Rice, Tulsa-Tulane

Posted Oct 24, 2013

Week 9 Fearless Predictions - Marshall at MT, UTEP at Rice, Tulsa at Tulane

- Marshall at Middle Tennessee, UTEP at Rice, Tulsa at Tulane
- UAB at UTSA, La Tech at FIU, North Texas at So Miss, FAU at Auburn

Marshall (4-2) at Middle Tennessee (3-4) Oct. 24, 7:30, Fox Sports 1

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Prior to enjoying a bye week, Marshall played its worst game of the year, yet still pulled out a road win over Florida Atlantic on a walk-off field goal. Head coach Doc Holliday believes that victory could be the turning point for the Herd as it continues its quest to win a league title for the first time since 2002. Middle Tennessee needs to rebound before this debut in Conference USA slips away. The Blue Raiders have skidded to three losses in a row, with the exclamation point coming in an ugly 34-7 loss to North Texas two weeks ago.

Why Marshall Might Win: It's pretty much assumed that the Thundering Herd has the better offensive talent in this one. It's actually got the better D as well. New coordinator Chuck Heater has quietly done a nice job with a unit that ranks in the Top 25 of just about every major statistical category. Marshall defenders, such as DT James Rouse, DE Alex Bazzie and LB Jermaine Holmes, will be too quick off the snap for the Blue Raider blockers.

Why Middle Tennessee Might Win: Marshall is having its own problems at the point of attack, forcing QB Rakeem Cato to operate under pressure. The Blue Raiders plan to attack on defense, and not just with the D-line. They'll turn loose LB T.T. Barber and even CB Jared Singletary in an attempt to create havoc. Middle Tennessee has trafficked in havoc all season, ranking among the nation's leaders with 20 takeaways.

Who To Watch Out For: Cato hasn't been Cato this year, at least as a passer. Since torching Miami U. in the opener, he's thrown just seven touchdown passes and five picks in the last five games. A primetime affair on Thursday night affords him a chance to turn things around, with help from favorite targets Tommy Shuler, Devon Smith and Gator Hoskins.

- Middle Tennessee has to run the ball in order to be successful this week. The Blue Raiders have the horses in Jordan Parker and Reggie Whatley, but Marshall is allowing just 2.9 yards a carry and 118 yards rushing a game.

What Will Happen: Road games on Thursday night are always tricky, but Marshall will survive on the strength of its more complete team. Plus, Middle Tennessee is having issues on both sides of the ball. Defense and an explosive gallop or two from RB Steward Butler will help keep the Herd perfect in league play.

Prediction: Marshall 33 … Middle Tennessee 21
Line: Marshall -9 – O/U: 57
Must See Rating: (5 The Counselor – 1 Last Vegas) … 1.5
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UTEP (1-5) at Rice (5-2) Oct. 26, 3:30, CSS

Why You Should Give A Hoot: In beating winless New Mexico State last week, Rice pulled to within a game of bowl eligibility for a second straight year. More important, though, the Owls remain one of the two remaining West Division teams that have yet to lose a Conference USA game. The next five weeks will determine who represents the division in the league title game. UTEP was idle last weekend, getting an extra week to heal and plot out the second half of 2013. It's been a difficult start for the Miners, which haven't won since their date with New Mexico State on Sept. 14.

Why UTEP Might Win: The Miners have a little more pop on offense than the Owls. QB Jameill Showers has gradually come into his own in his debut out of Texas A&M, throwing 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has a playmaker on the outside, WR Jordan Leslie, and a talented scatback, Aaron Jones, who benefitted from an extra week without contact.

Why Rice Might Win: The Owls are hosting a UTEP team that hasn't been able to stop anyone this season. The Miners will have an especially tough time slowing down powerful RB Charles Ross and QB Taylor McHargue. A healthy Ross, who carried 26 times for 167 yards and a touchdown last week, will feel little resistance from a UTEP D that ranks 118th nationally versus the run and is yielding more than six yards per carry.

Who To Watch Out For: Showers will need to be careful with his decisions this week. The veteran Rice defense has already collected 15 takeaways, and DBs Bryce Callahan and Phillip Gaines are ball-hawks.

- UTEP's secret weapon will continue to be KR Autrey Golden, one of the most dynamic special teamers in Conference USA. He's already taken two kicks back for touchdowns, and has the breakaway speed to change the tenor of a game.

What Will Happen: Run, run … and more runs. Rice is going to outmuscle UTEP at the point of attack, controlling the clock and the scoreboard. The veteran Owls are poised for a strong stretch run, which they hope ends with a West Division crown.

Prediction: Rice 39 … UTEP 24
Line: Rice -17.5 – O/U: 58
Must See Rating: (5 The Counselor – 1 Last Vegas) … 1.5
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Tulsa (2-4) at Tulane (5-2) Oct. 26, 3:30

Why You Should Give A Hoot: In the most intriguing Conference USA game of Week 9, the league's biggest first-half surprise hosts its biggest disappointment.

Tulane has been shockingly good for second-year head coach Curtis Johnson, surpassing the win total of the last eight seasons. Pegged as a bottom-feeder in the preseason, the Green Wave is tied atop the West Division and is closing in on its first bowl game since 2002. It's won three in a row, capped by a stunning upset of then-conference favorite East Carolina in overtime. But how will Tulane perform now that it's entering the radar? Tulsa, on the other hand, has done a poor job of defending its league title from a year ago. The Golden Hurricane beat UTEP prior to the break, but an Oct. 5 loss to Rice has left little margin for error in the division chase.

Why Tulsa Might Win: Tulane has exceeded expectations through two months, but the offense doesn't deserve too much of the credit. The Green Wave has had issues scoring when the defense or the special teams hasn't put it on the other team's doorstep. The Hurricane plans to attack an O-line that's already given up 22 sacks, turning loose LB Shawn Jackson and ends Derrick Alexander and Brentom Todd.

Why Tulane Might Win: Johnson's D has been a revelation this fall, racking up 20 takeaways to rank among the FBS leaders. Lorenzo Doss and Derrick Strozier have been ball-hawks out of the secondary, while DT Julius Warmsley and the linebackers are helping hold the line of scrimmage. Tulane yields just three yards a carry, a problem for a Tulsa attack that leans heavily on backs Trey Watts and Ja'Terian Douglas, and is erratic in the passing game.

Who To Watch Out For: Tulane is going to be an especially tough opponent for Tulsa QB Cody Green. Green is wildly inaccurate, a mistake waiting to happen, while the Green Wave D has been opportunistic all year long.

- Green Wave QB Nick Montana is expected to return to action after missing the East Carolina game with a litany of injuries, including to his throwing shoulder. Tulane needs its leader, especially if it's going to maximize the myriad skills of WR Ryan Grant.

What Will Happen: History says no, but Tulane is taking a break from history this fall. The Green Wave has a little magic about it in 2013, which will spill over into Week 9. Green is a liability, but even more so against a feisty defense that will get its hands on the ball. Spearheaded again by the D, Tulane will squeak by to remain unbeaten in league play.

Prediction: Tulane 28 … Tulsa 24
Line: Tulsa -3.5 – O/U: 54.5
Must See Rating: (5 The Counselor – 1 Last Vegas) … 2
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